worker shortage

With Too Few Workers to Hire, Some Restaurants Opt to Close for July 4

The Massachusetts Food Association recently wrote a letter to Gov. Charlie Baker urging him to consider paying people to go back to work, which New Hampshire is already doing

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The labor shortage is taking a toll on Fourth of July dinner plans as some Massachusetts businesses choose to close for the holiday, with the employers saying they do not have the staff to open.

For the first time in more than 70 years, the owner of Lindsey's family restaurant in East Wareham is closing because they do not have the workers. They are operating with roughly half the staff they usually have for the busy season.

"I've been through so much in 40 years with this restaurant, so many things that I thought brought me to my knees, but this is the worst," owner Cheri Lindsey said.

Lindsey said she is choosing to close for the holiday because she does not want to sacrifice service and disappoint her customers. The restaurant is only open five days a week instead of the usual seven due to the shortage that she blames partly on unemployment benefits.

"There is just not enough people to work. They're just like, 'I'm not working,'" Lindsey said.

Being an enforcer of mask mandates on top of the stress of being "essential" has led to many retail workers quitting after a tough, busy year, says Julia Pollak, labor economist at ZipRecruiter.

The shortage is impacting the entire supply chain. The restaurant's chef said he is waiting days for deliveries from distributors due to the lack of drivers. As a result, he has had to temporarily take items off the menu.

"It's like walking across a floor of cardboard wondering, is today going to be the day I fall through?" executive chef David Veronneau said.

The restaurant is one of many businesses struggling to get through the holiday weekend, which is historically one of the most profitable days of the year. The Gateway Tavern is closing for a week starting July 4. Reached by phone, an employee said it is partly to give their workers a break during the labor shortage.

The Massachusetts Food Association, which represents the grocery industry, is also seeing the negative impacts of the shortage. They recently wrote a letter to Gov. Charlie Baker urging him to consider paying people to go back to work, which New Hampshire is already doing.

"As soon as their measure went through, they had more applications than they've had in the last year and a half. It's proof that it does work," said Brian Houghton, the group's senior vice president of government affairs and communications.

In one month, unemployed New Hampshire residents will no longer have access to the extra $300 a week in federal funds. Instead they'll be getting a back-to-work bonus after they find a new job.

Many businesses have started offering their own incentives, including signing and referral bonuses to try and get workers in the door.

"I really do believe this too shall pass, but it's just going to have to be something people deal with that they've never dealt with before," Lindsey said. "It's going to be a rough summer."

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